Chairman's Update - November
In the words of Frankie Valli - "Oh, what a night!"
Tuesday was not only a historic day nationally, but it turned out to be a record setting day in Texas. At no time in the history of the State of Texas, have Republicans held a higher percentage of the Legislature, nor have they obtained as many seats as we hold now. At last count, we have confirmed an increase of 22 seats in the Texas Legislature for a total of 99. There is still one race that of Dan Neil, which is undecided in HD 48. He is 15 votes down currently, but numerous overseas ballots have yet to be counted (which traditionally trend Republican) and there are also a number of provisional ballots which he may pick up, so it is possible that we may even hit 100. If we do, this will give Republicans a 2/3 majority of the Texas House for the first time ever, which has many procedural advantages.
We also made tremendous gains in our county and local races across Texas. These races and the amount of counties that have turned solid Republican, are the untold story of the election. As we gain control of counties' judgeships, county clerks, county judges, etc., these wins will have a huge impact on our ability to build the Republican Party in areas which were traditionally Democrat, thereby allowing us to even increase our numbers further in the future. We also exceeded expectations by picking up three new Congressional seats, Francisco Canseco defeated Ciro Rodriguez, Bill Flores defeated Chet Edwards and Blake Farenthold defeated Solomon Ortiz.
We also either held onto or increased our influence in the major urban areas. Of specific note, in Harris County where we lost most of our judicial races in 2008, Republicans rebounded significantly as we won all of the judicial races and county wide races by a significant margin.
None of this happened by accident. My total focus since the last Chairman's update a month ago, as well as that of the staff, was 100% on the elections. I ceased all fundraising activity during the last month, and we purposely postponed several fundraisers in order to be able to devote full atttention to the elections with particular emphasis on the Texas House seats. As a result of polling results, we knew about a month out that we were competitive in over 20 Democratic incumbent seats. Privately, we were hoping to pick up 10 and so the results of an additional 22 or 23 Republicans exceeded our goals. Knowing that these races were very close, I personally spent my last month travelling around the state on behalf of our Republican candidates as well as attempting to motivate our troops.
Specifically, during the week of October 11th, I travelled to Corsicana to speak to the Navarro County Executive Committee. The following night I travelled to Granbury, to keynote State Senator Brian Birdwell's fundraiser event. The following day I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Mike Conaway and his staff to discuss the RPT's preparations for the elections. That night, much of the RPT staff attended a forum at the LBJ School of Journalism at which our own Youth Director and new editor of the New Texas Forum, Austen Bailey, was on a forum with liberal journalists. Austen did a fabulous job representing the RPT and young conservatives. On Frida, most of the RPT staff attended Governor Rick Perry's appearance at the Texas Tribune event in support of our Governor.
The weekend of October 16-17, was the first weekend of three statewide blockwalking weekends that the RPT helped coordinate. Our staff had been in contact with numerous campaigns over the course of the week to obtain information as to where and when they were planning to blockwalk, and then we matched our Trailblazer volunteers to these efforts. The entire political staff of the RPT also blockwalked that weekend to set a good example of personal involvement in our districts. I personally went down to San Antonio and campaigned on behalf of Francisco Canseco by blockwalking neighborhoods in Bexar County, and then we drove that night to a Republican election rally at a VFW hall in Somerset, TX outside of San Antonio with Francisco's campaign.
I started off the following week by emceeing an enthusiastic Early Vote rally in Travis County, attended by our statewide elected officials, including Senator John Cornyn, Governor Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and Attorney General Greg Abbott. That evening, I travelled to Williamson County to speak to the Williamson County Republicans at Junior's in Round Rock. The following night, I attended the banquet for the Texas Alliance for Life in downtown Austin. That Wednesday, I travelled to Lufkin in East Texas to campaign on behalf of James White, and to host a Texas Truth Tour press conference attacking his opponent. On the way back, we stopped in on the Houston County leadership in Crockett, and then finished the week off with a trip to Houston. Saturday morning the 23rd, I addressed Jack O'Connor volunteers and then joined them blockwalking that morning. That afternoon, I blockwalked for the Jim Murphy campaign in SW Houston, and the following day I greeted voters at an early voting location with Sarah Davis. I am pleased to report that Sarah Davis won her race, defeating Ellen Cohen by a little over 700 votes. Unfortunately Jack O'Connor lost his race, but ran a very strong campaign, losing just 52-48. Jim Murphy won by a significant margin, defeating Kristi Thibaut and reclaiming that seat.
The week of October 25th, I spent the majority of my time working with RPT staff to provide last minute assistance to targeted Texas House races. We coordinated mail campaigns for numerous Republican candidates, designed and paid for mail for other candidates, developed phone scripts for GOTV messages in targeted races, purchased signs for Governor Rick Perry, and paid for literature and signs and advertising for still others. Meanwhile, Travis Griffin, our political director, continued to direct volunteers through our expanded statewide volunteer calendar. I did make time that week to speak at the Center Right Coalition and travel to Fort Hood, TX to represent the Republican Party of Texas at the honoring of our RNC Committewoman Borah Van Dormolen, who was honored as the distinguished Army retiree.
The weekend of October 30th was the last of our three statewide blockwalks, and again our RPT staff joined the volunteers and I joined the Paul Workman volunteers Saturday morning and walked the neighborhoods of Lakeway in Travis County. I picked the Workman campaign to work with, in part because volunteers from the Young Conservatives of Texas were also walking that day, and I also wanted to show support for that group which I founded 30 years ago.
This week was especially hectic for myself and the RPT staff as we dealt with last minute issues related to the election. Vice-Chairman Melinda Fredricks was very busy in her work, overseeing our ballot integrity committee and she did a fabulous job lining up volunteer lawyers and monitoring for voter fraud and other election issues.
On Monday, I flew around the state on a whistlestop tour with our statewide elected officials, serving as MC as we held election rallies in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. On Election Day, I had the privilege of being the MC at the Victory celebration held at the TDS Exotic Game Ranch in Buda. We had over 2000 enthusiastic attendees, and much to celebrate!
As the dust settles from the elections, several things are clear. Solving the Party's financial problems was a major contributing factor to the RPT's ability to majorly impact and assist in these victories. Since I have been Chairman, we have received approximately $1.1 million in pledges, and have been able to put in the bank, $876,000 prior to the election. This allowed us to provide direct assistance to our candidates. As of last Friday, our total debt had been reduced to $160,000 and we were still on track to have it fully paid off by the end of the year.
Despite our overwhelming and resounding victories on Tuesday, much work remains to be done. In fact, we had an early morning staff meeting on Wednesday to brainstorm what we need to start working on now for 2012. We have some exciting ideas and tentative plans which we will be announcing in the near future, allowing us to get a head start on the next election cycle. Our job is not finished.
My staff is also working on a major and comprehensive report for Texas Republicans, recapping and telling the whole story of what your Party has done these past weeks and months to help make this historic victory possible in Texas. Stay tuned for the release of that report in the very near future.
I want to thank Comptroller Susan Combs for serving as our Victory chairman and for doing an absolutely fabulous job. One of her best decisions was hiring Jarod Love, the Executive Director of Victory, who was not only a pleasure to work with, but who did an outstanding job as well. My staff will also be providing you a comprehensive report in the future on their efforts as well.
I would like to make special mention of the following elected officials, without whose financial support these victories in the Texas House would not be possible. State Comptroller Susan Combs, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Huchison, U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, State Senator Tommy Williams, and State Senator Florence Shapiro. Special thanks also goes out to Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Jim Keffer and the Debt Busters committee, who by themselves are responsible for over $200,000 of the Party's pledges.
Finally, I would like to thank every grassroots volunteer who knocked on doors, made calls, and worked tirelessly on behalf of the Republican Party of Texas to support our candidates, and the principles of our Party. These victories are a result of a team effort, and demonstrate what a revitalized and a unified Republican Party of Texas can accomplish. I am optimistic with everyone working together, that we can accomplish even more in 2012. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your Chairman on this historic night.